Those Rascally Airplanes Are Starting To Show Up On Time

Stats released by the U.S. Department of Transportation say airplanes are taking off on time more frequently than before. More flights were on time in April than in March, as well as April 2008.

The Kansas City star singles out the airlines that are most often on time, as well as those that take schedules only as humorous suggestions:

Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance, while Comair – a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc. – had the worst. Among legacy carriers, Northwest Airlines – operated by Atlanta-based Delta – was on time the most, and Continental Airlines Inc. posted the worst on-time performance.

If you’re not like me, and don’t get mad when your flight starts because it means you have to stop playing your DS for a little while, punctuality may be something to keep in mind when deciding which airline to book for your summer vacation.

More U.S. Flights on Time [Kansas City Star]
(Photo: So Cal Metro)


Edit Your Comment

  1. HiPwr says:

    I read that last sentence three times and still don’t understand what it means. Can someone please clue me in?

    • ARP says:

      @HiPwr: A bit awkward, but he’s saying he doesn’t care as much about planes taking off on time, but others might. The reason is for this is that he has to turn off his video game.

    • ramfan1701 says:

      I think it means that leaving on time means having to stop your video game earlier, which is a ‘problem’ for the author.

      Pretty sure it’s meant to be sarcastic.

  2. ARP says:

    How does this compare to total number of flights? I imagine when there’s less traffic, more planes take off on time.

    • MikeHerbst says:


      I was wondering the same thing. I’m betting that on-time departures are tied somewhat directly to the cutting of flights both as a cost cutting measure directly and as a result of decreased ridership.

  3. Tolgak says:

    I imagine this is more because of proper compensation of time than it is about less air traffic. I used to have to fly a route in which the plane was consistently late due to the same circumstances by about the same amount of time each month. Nobody ever figured to adjust its arrival and departure time to more accurately reflect how the planes were flying the route.

    I think operators are becoming more realistic in their estimations.

  4. Mr_Mantastic says:

    There are many air traffic related concepts to figure into timeliness. There’s always weather to worry about which can ground a plane for hours, or make planes in the air spin in circles or divert to another destination. There’s traffic management, which will leave a plane on the ground so it can be fit into the stream going to the destination airport. There’s traffic congestion in the air. Most people do not realize how many planes are flying at one time, and how crowded the massive airspace we have can get in certain areas. This ties in with controllers giving the planes shortcuts, if able. If they can’t because of traffic, then the plane will stay on it’s originally filed route. Then there’s the airline doing what it does and being slow or fast to get the plane ready for departure.

  5. tgrwillki says:

    I wonder if there is a list of the airlines and flights with the most frequent early arrivals, and by the number of minutes. It might be nice to know which flights you can reasonably expect to arrive in their destination 10-15 minutes early, and which ones you can expect to be late.

  6. schiff says:

    Funny, my flight from NYC’s LGA to Chicago was delayed an hour which cause me to miss my connecting flight in Chicago. I guess its just my flights that arent on time.

    FYI American Airlines is the worst airline I have ever flown. Between lost luggage, delayed flights, bumping passengers, overbooking, and generally rude staff – its a wonder they ever have a satisfied customer.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:


      Not to blame you, but really, an hour at O’Hare isn’t enough to make a connection if your flight is coming in from LGA. You might get lucky, and your connecting flight is late too, but that’s a risk.

  7. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I got caught by a Continental delay a couple weeks ago, but to their credit, they gave everybody a food voucher and encouraged us to use them quickly, as the concessions would be closing. Granted, it was only $12, and that’s barely enough for a bad cheeseburger at an airport restaurant, but I thought it was a good customer relations move on their part.

  8. HirsheysKissMyArse says:

    I’ve noticed that they’re giving more “wiggle room” in the time postings. US Airways gave at least 40 minutes on a trip from Phoenix to Kansas City. We had a half-hour mechanical problem and still landed “on time.” So they might be just managing expectations more.

  9. Blueskylaw says:

    Even a blind squirrel will find a nut every now and then.

  10. kepler11 says:

    um, hello. The reason is that carriers across the board cut their schedules by ~20% in anticipation of the downturn in traffic. Naturally, they were able to pad their schedules a bit more liberally, and get planes out the door better.

    Hawaiian Airlines has the best ontime record because it flies basically to 6 places in Hawaii, and is not a hub-spoke operation. Plus, there is no bad weather in Hawaii…

  11. Anonymous says:

    i was looking for someone to comment about how ‘leaving on time’ is defined. e.g., on a recent JetBlue flight out of Kennedy, the plane ‘closed the doors’ on time, but we waited to take off for more than one hour. i’m guessing that qualified as an ‘on-time departure.’

    • nybiker says:

      @WilonaVespillo: IIRC, push-back from the gate within 15 minutes of the scheduled departure time qualifies it as an on-time departure. Wheels-up is a whole other story. Of course, sitting on the tarmac for an hour might cause you to have a late arrival (that is, gate arrival is later than 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time).

      • NeverLetMeDown says:


        I’ve never really understood the whole “on-time departure” thing. Who cares if they leave 30 minutes or an hour late, if they make that up in transit. I care if they _get there_ on time.

        • nybiker says:

          @NeverLetMeDown: I agree getting there on time is the important part. I guess it is just another statistic that gets measured and tracked and reported on. But the idea of making it up in transit implies that the schedule has a lot of slack time in it. Some people would make the case that that’s inefficient. They would say just tell us how long it’s going to take to get from JFK to LAX. And that concept is fine if you’re able to control your schedule (a la Air Force One). For the rest of us, an on-time departure might just mean we get there, hold on to your hats, early.

          All-in-all flight schedules these days are pretty much a crap shoot and just as when you’re at a casino, some days you win and some days you lose.

    • RogerTheAlien says:

      @WilonaVespillo: Yeah, that’s kind of bullshit of the airlines, but they’ve been doing it for years. The problem is not with what they’re saying/claiming, but that the metric is all wrong. What’s really important to travelers? It’s whether or not they arrive on time. Yeah, leaving on time and NOT waiting forever at the airport or on the tarmac is also nice, but really, if you had to choose between an on-time departure (whatever that nebulous term actually means) or being AT the destination at the time advertised, I think most people would choose the latter.

  12. meechybee says:

    Remind me to never fly Delta or NorthWest again.

    Oh wait, I never do.

  13. nybiker says:

    Is that a Photoshopped picture or is it just the angle of it that makes it look like NWA is riding on the Delta plane?

    Assuming a real picture and no edits, I guess Delta is waiting at a stop sign for NWA to fly- or taxi-by.

    • Mike8813 says:

      @nybiker: It took me a minute to realize what was going on. But yeah, it seems that one is landing while the other is holding short of the runway. The depth threw me off, too.